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Tweens Want The Latest Gadget, But Enjoy Simple Toys Longer

My daughter really wants an iTouch. She’s 12…a tween. We heard nothing about this until recently when a friend was over who happened to have been given one for a holiday gift. It turns out that many of her friends have them now so she feels like iPods are suddenly passe.

Instead of asking us for one or concocting a plan to put it on her next birthday list, she came up with the idea to earn enough money for it by doing chores around the house. Pointing out the amount of chores and likely time frame to sock away $200-300 bucks was not a deterrent, at least not out of the gate. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

What Features Do Teens Need On Cell Phones?

Cell phones are their feature are an ever growing topic in today’s families. It used to be that the hot button issue was whether to get the phone. Now, we have to deal with all the features: texting, Internet, camera…to name the tip of the iceberg!

Clearly we’re becoming a more mobile society with our cell phones taking over features previously reserved for our computers. A recent Nielsen Wire report confirms this observation showing that in Q1 of 2009 21% of cell phone owners used their phones to search the Internet, up from 16% in Q4 of 2008.

At the moment, digital plans are pricey so it’s easy to lock our kids out of their cell phone Internet access. However, not too long ago we said the same exact thing about texting and now we have affordable unlimited texting plans.

Given the impulsivity of tweens and teens and how difficult it is for us to help kids with appropriate Internet use on computers, do we want to open the door to having them have access to the Internet on cell phones? Once data plans become more affordable, should we let them have cell phone internet access?

Perhaps it would be easier to answer if asked slightly differently. How are our teens and tweens doing with the digital cell phone freedom they have right now? Given the rise of extreme texting and sexting, I’d say not so great. Before we open the door to new issues and digital freedoms they are not ready for, we have to help them more with the freedoms they already have – and are clearly struggling with. Plus, as parents, we are still sorting out the issues with the digital uses of technology our kids are currently using. Let’s sort those out first before we give the green light to other mobile freedoms that will certainly be more complex and harder to control.

If all goes well, data plans will remain unaffordable for a while longer so we won’t have to cross another digital bridge none of us are ready for.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

Tween Overcomes Shyness To Go To Summer Camp

During the recent Mother’s Day weekend, I found myself driving north to New Hampshire to take a tour of an overnight camp my youngest daughter, almost 12, came home from school the prior week and announcing she “had to go to” this summer with her friends. While this is very age-appropriate, any one who knows my daughter who is reading this is at this very moment reading the last paragraph and shouting out loud “Get out! M…shy little M!!??” Yup…the one and only.

This is a child who used to talk about living at home “forever”.

This is a child whose dream college was “definitely in Boston…maybe Connecticut” – so she could come home and visit when she felt the urge.

This is a child who, until this year, “wasn’t a fan of sleepovers”. She used to explain “it’s a bed thing – I like my own bed.”

So, when this same child came home last week and started off telling me about her day with “So, about the summer…there’s this camp in New Hampshire…” I almost fell off my seat and I’m sure my heart skipped a beat.

Every relative who heard this story has had the same reaction. First, shock…”M??” then pure excitement (“All right, M!!”).

This isn’t a child who will be living at home forever – this child is growing up.

This isn’t a child who will just look at Boston or Connecticut for colleges some day – this child is starting to see a world around her and want to explore it!

This child is now a fan of sleepovers because “how else can you sleep somewhere other than home and be with your friends.” Good thing because the camp has bunks!!

So, never say ‘never’ when it comes to your kids. They bloom in the most amazing ways when they are ready, not when we think they are ready, and often do so when we least expect it. All we can do as parents is prepare for the unexpected and be their best cheering squad through their new found courage, excitement and interests.

BTW, I used to worry about this child, my previously shy, no longer little M. Not any more! This child has clearly emerged from her cocoon and sprouted wings that are sure to take her in many exciting directions – and we’re happy to help her snatch some air space to take a few practice runs before she’s old enough to really wonder from home. I hope you’ll do the same with your tweens and teens. Just like a new pilot takes many test runs before flying solo, our tweens and teens will need many new experiences with us close at hand, but just a bit out of reach, before they are finally on their own in the adult world.


*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

Those Middle School Years …

By Stacy Beller Stryer, M.D.

Those middle school years …
As a parent, we often think these are years to be feared.  Years that we wish we could just blink away.  We hear horror stories from our friends and look at book titles, such as “Parenting 911,” and “The Roller Coaster Years,” with trepidation.  If only we could run away … just for awhile.
But, if we did run away we would be missing out on some of the most rewarding and exciting times we will have with our children.  Sure, I am not going to deny that middle-school age children(referred to as “middlers” by authors Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese) are emotional, moody and, at times, unreliable.  But, as someone once told me, almost every negative attribute can be turned into a positive one.  I guess that means that maybe, instead of being emotional and unreliable, our middlers are actually passionate and spontaneous.
Developmentally, they are expanding their horizons in many ways.  This is when they develop abstract reasoning, a complex sense of humor (beyond the potty jokes), and the knowledge that there is an entire world out there for them to conquer.  This is when they begin to develop strong interests, likes and dislikes, and when they begin to take greater risks – in a positive way.
Personally, I love being with my middler (8th grade) and my almost middler (5th grade) girls.  They are interesting, exciting, and a blast to be with.  When my 8th grader becomes passionate about something, particularly some social injustice, she can talk a mile a minute.  My 5th grader can be very intense when she practices viola or writes original music for her instrument.  She often performs for me while I am preparing dinner.  Both are becoming much more adventurous –  last month we went to an Asian supermarket and bought several  canned fruits we had never heard of so we could have taste tests.
I have been thinking about these middle years recently, not only because my children are this age, but also because I have been preparing for a lecture on this topic for parents at a local school.  Although I have been counseling patients for years, I have recently read several additional books on the topic in preparation for the talk.  They have been helpful, although my basic parenting principles remain unchanged.  They seem to be important for children and teens of all ages.  I think (“Parenting, according to Dr. Stacy”) that the six key elements of being a good parent of any age child include:
1.     Open communication
2.    Respect and consistent discipline
3.    Compassion
4.    Sensitivity
5.    Awareness
6.    Being a role model
Although the principles remain the same over time, the way we express them varies, depending on the child’s age.  For middlers, there should be a strong emphasis on sensitivity and awareness.  Children in this age range tend to be very emotional and sensitive, and we need to understand and respect this.  For example, they may not want to be kissed or hugged in public anymore.  Or, they may need some private time after school or in the evening.  We should allow them to retreat to their rooms for a certain time period before bombarding them with questions or making other demands.  Respecting their needs ultimately improves communication.  We should also be particularly aware of sudden or extreme changes in our middlers’ behavior, as depression, eating disorders and other problems can appear during these years.

Adapting these six basic parenting skills will certainly not ensure a problem-free middle school experience for you or your child, but it will make it much more likely that he or she will come to you in times of need and will strengthen the relationship that you have with each other.  Consequently, your middler will be less likely to engage in high risk behaviors or succumb to peer pressure which occurs during these years.

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